The rate of CO2 diffusion from soils to the atmosphere (soil CO2 efflux, soil respiration; Rsoil) reflects the integrated activity of roots and microbes and is among the largest fluxes of the terrestrial global C cycle. Most experiments have demonstrated that Rsoil increases by 20–35% following the exposure of an ecosystem to an atmosphere enriched in CO2 (i.e., eCO2), but such experiments have largely been performed in young and N-limited ecosystems. Here, we exposed a mature and phosphorus-limited eucalypt woodland to eCO2 and measured Rsoil across three full years with a combination of manual surveys and automated measurements. We also implemented an empirical model describing the dependence of Rsoil on volumetric soil water content (θ) and soil temperature (Tsoil) to produce annual Rsoil flux estimates. Rsoil varied strongly with Tsoil, θ, and precipitation in complex and interacting ways. The realized long-term (weeks to years) temperature dependence (Q10) of Rsoil increased from ~ 1.6 at low θ up to ~ 3 at high θ. Additionally, Rsoil responded strongly and rapidly to precipitation events in a manner that depended on the conditions of θ and Tsoil at the beginning of the rain event; Rsoil increased by up to 300% within 30 min when rain fell on dry soil that had not experience rain in the preceding week, but Rsoil was rapidly reduced by up to 70% when rain fell on wet soil, leading to flooding. Repeated measures analysis of Rsoil observations over 3 years indicated no significant change in response to CO2 enrichment (P = 0.7), and elevated CO2 did not alter the dependence of Rsoil on Tsoil or θ. However, eCO2 increased Rsoil observations by ~ 10% under some constrained and moderate environmental conditions. Annual Rsoil flux sums estimated with an empirical model were ~ 7% higher in eCO2 plots than in aCO2 plots, but this difference was not statistically significant. The lack of a large eCO2 effect on Rsoil is consistent with recent evidence that aboveground net primary production was not stimulated by eCO2 in this ecosystem. The C budget of this mature woodland may be less affected by eCO2 than the young N-limited ecosystems that have been studied previously.
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Acknowledgements We thank Steven Wohl, Vinod Kumar, Craig McNamara, and Craig Barton (Western Sydney University) for running all technical aspects of the EucFACE facility. We thank Angelica Vårhammer, Loïc Nazaries, and Jasmine Grinyer (Western Sydney University) for their contribution to the Rsoil measurements. EucFACE is an initiative supported by the Australian Government through the Education Investment Fund, the Department of Industry and Science, and the Australian Research Council in partnership with Western Sydney University. Facilities at EucFACE were built as an initiative of the Australian Government as part of the Nation-building Economic Stimulus Package.
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- Carbon cycle
- Carbon dioxide
- Mathematical model
- Soil CO efflux
- Soil respiration